Friday, January 29, 2016

Luther: Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He has on me

This is a follow-up to my earlier critiques of  Shoebat's Martin Luther- The Bare Truth Unfolded. Their recent hit piece includes some Luther quotes I've never gone into detail on or have never covered, or deserve a fresh look. For instance, they state:

To add insult onto injury, he goes so far as to elevate himself greater than the Fathers, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine by stating: “St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me.” (Enlangen, Vol. 61, p422)To show his utter egotistical attitude, which has carried on down through the rest of Protestantism, he states:“Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He has on me” (Luther’s Works, Erlangen ed., 61:422). If this really is the attitude of Luther towards God and His Truth, then God help today’s Protestants who have behaved in the same manner, if not worse.

The Shoebat article first quotes Luther stating, "St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me (Enlangen, Vol. 61, p422)." I've thoroughly covered this quote before. Shoebat's use verifies they probably relied on Luther, Exposing the Myth as their main cut-and-paste source. The documentation "Enlangen, Vol. 61, p422" is misspelled (it's "Erlangen") and completely bogus. The quote without background gives off the impression that Luther generally considered himself greater than Augustine and Ambrose in all areas. The context though concerns upholding secular authority. Luther was under attack for rebellion against the state and he rhetorically argues that neither Augustine nor Ambrose were his equals in upholding secular government and power.

Even though Shoebat provides an accurate reference for the quote under scrutiny, it was probably originally taken from books like Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor by Peter Wiener or Luther IV by Hartmann Grisar. Someone at some point (maybe Grisar?) said this quote comes from "Luther’s Works, Erlangen ed., 61:422." This can be found here, on page 422. This text comes from the Tischreden, or Table Talk.  The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. The comment dates from September, 1542 and was recorded by  Caspar Heydenreich (see LW 54:413). The text reads as follows:

The same text can be found in WA, TR 5:189-190. This text has been translated into English. There are translations found in various biographies of Luther, for instance, like this one.  For the standard English rendering, see LW 54:430.

No. 5494: Illness of Luther’s Daughter Becomes Graver September, 1542
When the illness of his daughter became graver he [Martin Luther] said, “I love her very much. But if it is thy will to take her, dear God, I shall be glad to know that she is with thee.”Afterward he said to his daughter, who was lying in bed, “Dear Magdalene, my little daughter, you would be glad to stay here with me, your father. Are you also glad to go to your Father in heaven?” The sick girl replied, “Yes, dear Father, as God wills.” The father said, “You dear little girl!” [Then he turned away from her and said,] “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak [Matt. 26:41]. I love her very much. If this flesh is so strong, what must the spirit be?” Among other things he then said, “In the last thousand years God has given to no bishop such great gifts as he has given to me (for one should boast of God’s gifts), i'm angry with myself that I’m unable to rejoice from my heart and be thankful to God, though I do at times sing a little song and thank God. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s [Rom. 14:8]—in the genitive singular and not in the nominative plural.” (LW 54:430)

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther provides a slightly different version:
As his daughter lay very ill, Dr. Luther said: "I love her very much, but dear God, if it be thy will to take her, I submit to thee." Then he said to her as she lay in bed: " Magdalene, my dear little daughter, would you like to stay here with your father, or would you willingly go to your Father yonder ? " She answered: " Darling father, as God wills." Then said he: " Dearest child, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Then he turned away and said: " I love her very much; if my flesh is so strong, what can my spirit do? God has given no bishop so great a gift in a thousand years as he has given me in her. I am angry with myself that I cannot rejoice in heart and be thankful as I ought."

For the defenders of Rome (or anyone for that matter) using this quote, the context is not their friend. The historical context surrounds the death of Luther's daughter Magdalene, and one of the "great gifts" was.... his daughter. To learn more about the death of Luther's daughter, see this link. says the quote demonstrates Luther's "utter egotistical attitude, which has carried on down through the rest of Protestantism.Had they actually done a little research, they would have easily found an account of father grieving for his his child.

  Some years back a defender of Rome used this same quote (among others) so readers could "marvel at Luther's numerous self-exalting, comically surreal utterances placing himself far above the fathers." Yes, let's indeed marvel at Luther's statement: the reported statement of a father watching his daughter die. If anything is "comically surreal" it's the effort some put in to their propaganda at the expense of a the context.

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